How therapist self-disclosure relates to alliance and outcomes: A naturalistic study

Heidi M. Levitt, Takuya Minami, Scott B. Greenspan, Jae A. Puckett, Jennifer R. Henretty, Catherine M. Reich, Jeffery S. Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study examined therapists’ self-disclosure within early sessions of a naturalistic database of 52 therapy dyads collected at a university counseling center. Therapist orientations and client issues varied. We identified both types and functions of therapist self-disclosure in order to explore how self-disclosures related to therapy alliance and outcomes. Findings indicated that the number of disclosures was not significantly correlated with outcome or alliance scores. Central findings regarding the function of self-disclosures included that disclosures that acted to humanize the therapist were associated with fewer clinical symptoms post-session than disclosures expressing appreciation or encouragement. Also, disclosures that conveyed similarity between the therapist and client were associated with fewer post-session clinical symptoms and interpersonal problems when compared to disclosures that conveyed neither similarity nor dissimilarity. As well, neutral therapist self-disclosures were associated with better client functioning than disclosures that relayed negative or positive information about the therapist. Suggestions are provided for clinical practice and future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
JournalCounselling Psychology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016


  • counseling
  • psychotherapeutic processes
  • psychotherapeutic techniques
  • psychotherapy outcome
  • self-disclosure
  • therapist


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